PRETENDING TO BE DEAF: Funny or Damaging?

The El Paso Chihuahuas minor league USA baseball team played a month-long prank on teammate right-fielder Jeff Francoeur.  Team manager, Pat Murphy, lead Jeff, a former major league baseball player, to believe that pitcher Jorge Reyes was deaf.  With help from the rest of the team, Jorge pretended he was deaf around Jeff for a month.

The video below describes the prank in more detail and shows Jeff’s reaction upon discovering Jorge was not deaf. If you need captioning, you will need to go to youtube to get access. 
While this prank does not directly make fun of deaf people, it is dishonest, enhances the stigma of deafness, and rebuilds barriers that the deaf community has been trying to break down. 

Invisibility

Oftentimes, there are services set up in place so that deaf people have equal access.  These services include the rights to make phone calls and interpreters for medical appointments.  Unfortunately, hearing people have abused these services in the past by pretending they are deaf which has resulted in difficulties of making phone calls through relay without getting hung up.  This has put deaf people’s health and safety at risk when medical or police personnel are skeptical that a person is actually deaf.

This video shows that it’s acceptable to fake being deaf for personal gain regardless of if it may eventually take away equal accessibility from the deaf community.

Inspirational Porn and Expectations

There is an article, We Are Not Here For Your Inspiration, that defines inspirational porn as:

Inspiration porn is an image of a person with a disability, often a kid, doing something completely ordinary – like playing, or talking, or running, or drawing a picture, or hitting a tennis ball – carrying a caption like “your excuse is invalid” or “before you quit, try.”

But using these images as feel-good tools, as “inspiration”, is based on an assumption that the people in them have terrible lives, and that it takes some extra kind of pluck or courage to live them.Stella Young

Jeff has good intentions when he makes the following comment:

“It’s been a lot of fun to play with Jorge, he’s overcome obviously a lot.  Being a deaf baseball player’s very tough in this game and to see the way he’s done it and handled himself is awesome.”

Jeff does not know Jorge well at all but Jorge is suddenly an inspiration because he’s playing baseball even though he’s deaf.  Why does being deaf automatically make deaf people inspirational?
This is reflective of society’s attitude that they have lower expectations of people who are deaf and do not view them as equals.  Oftentimes barriers that a deaf person faces in society are barriers that have been created through this line of thinking and are not based on the ability or inability to hear. 

Another harmful stigma that has been reinforced in the public eye because of the result of this prank.

Communication

Often the biggest challenge between a deaf and hearing person is communication.  When a person exaggerates mouth movements through over enunciating words or exaggerates gestures they’re sending out the message that deaf people need messages to be simplified because they are incapable of understanding complex conversations.

This video shows that this line of thinking is still present in our society when it shouldn’t be.

This prank is a light-heart prank with the intention of giving a baseball teammate a hard time.  Why did they feel that faking to be deaf was the best way to do this?  They unintentionally rebuild communication and accessibility barriers by reinforcing stereotypes, stigma, and misconceptions.


Perhaps a video needs to be created to address misconceptions in this prank video in order to turn this into an educational opportunity for the public.

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